One persons Courage…

You hear about it in the news, inspirational articles, and in the whispers of people discussing someone’s life. Sometimes you hear it to your face. “You are so courageous.” I have been facing my fears lately and there has been some courage yet, most of what people tell me is courage is merely a will to live. Is the Will to Live what makes us couragous? Does this invalidate courage?

When I hear about someone being courageous, brave, or something along that line the picture in my mind is a bit gender normative and sexist. It’s a brave soldier in a black and white movie with bombs exploding behind him rescuing the little woman and running away from gunfire without breaking a sweat. I am well aware this is a very skewed image that remains in my mind. I use this image to invalidate my own experience often.

How can I be courageous? I just didn’t give up. I didn’t notice it until tonight. Giving the speech about my Thirty Seconds, I was reminded it is courageous to save a life. I found myself afraid of those words. Why fear courage? I think it is the responsibility to be something more than human that the media shows us courage is. Batman is couragous. He’s a super hero. I am just a small and broken woman at the end of her endurance trying to make it through every day.

I am trying to teach myself what courage can be, beyond the black and white John Wayne dreams. I am trying to teach myself that courage is simply living. Transgendered people who have the courage to go through the change, to live in the sex that fits their minds and not their bodies are courageous because it is their will to live. They can die for being who they are.

How terrifying it must be to have to pee in public. How terrifying it must be to go clothes shopping, to go out and feel that fear… what if someone figures out who they are and in their ridiculous hatred they attack? That is courage. It is also horribly sad that we live in a world where it is not a hate crime to attack a trans individual. I didn’t know that until recently, I thought that it was a hate crime. It should be. Living without a legal saftey net, living without basic human respect, and living without the ability to be accepted by any other minority (except for some of us who actually do care) takes courage. There are trans persons who are unable to live as they wish, because it is too dangerous.

It takes courage to live at all. It takes courage for the college student to go to her late night class, because she hears all the warnings about rape. It takes courage for the woman who was date raped to speak up, risking victim blaming and slut shaming. It takes courage for the teen mother to take pride in being a mother, bucking against the stereotypes about teen mothers. It takes courage for the disabled man to go up a flight of stairs on his hands and knees to see if his able bodied friends and family are alright after hearing a gunshot. He couldn’t escape if there was a killer. That is courage.

To revile the word courage is to revile the act of living. It takes courage for our students to go to school. We live in a world where the terror of school shootings is very real, where the hate that a disabled student feels can destroy their minds and their souls. We live in a world where there is no safe haven. It takes courage to raise a child with disabilities and to love them. It takes courage to admit that you are disabled.

It takes courage to say that you do not want to see a movie because it is full of sexism. It takes courage to be a Womanist. It takes courage to be a Feminist. It takes courage to be an advocate. It takes courage to write. It takes courage to cry. It takes courage to go out, knowing discrimination is waiting for you. It takes courage to date a person who is of another color. It takes courage to love someone who is of the same sex.

In a world as full of toxic messages, it is cowardly to defame courage. To hold the power to inspire one person is enough to change the world. To inspire countless thousands? That is a gift unparalleled. Forgive me for feeling that I was unworthy of the word courage.

I have been courageous. I am courageous to write about my time as a Victim. I am courageous to have ideas and to share them. I am courageous to start a business during a Depression.

You are courageous too. I am sure you can list ways you are courageous. I would like the comments on this post to be dedicated to your courage. What have you done that is courageous today?

Today my act of courage is to start planning the wedding ceremony for two young women in love. My acts of courage in life will include officiating their wedding ceremony. I do this with pride, and to honor their love and the courage it takes to stand up and proudly say, “I am Gay, I am Pagan, and I am in Love!”

Thank you for your life. Thank you for your courage.

Tracey Ullman Fail

So called comedians often use minorities for their humor. I never find this funny, and usually question why I bother trying to watch comedy shows after a certain point. Today I noticed the on-demand section for ShowTime had the “Tracey Ullman’s United States” section added. I started the first program, and right off the script starts with bashing illegal immigrants, Tracey Ullman, a white woman, in black face. It moves on to her mocking the Indian Culture, Islam, and Italians. She also mocks the very real medical ailment of Restless Leg Syndrome. It may sound funny, but, your legs burning all the time, unable to keep them still? Very problematic.

Instead of funny this show seems to show her hate. She makes fun of mostly ethnic groups, minorities, but makes fun of just enough white people to get away with her bigotry by the standards of those blind to their privilege. She makes fun of those from the south. She makes fun of everyone.

Hold up a mirror Tracey. Hold up a mirror to yourself and see just how sad you are. She goes with victim blaming, rape jokes, and does she see what this does to people? This isn’t funny. It is aggressively disgusting.

This may be old news, but, maybe someone will read this and will take notice. It is never funny to demean someone. It is never appropriate to put on black face. That was never funny. Ever. It is not appropriate to have your Indian Woman character sing her sentences in a mock Bollywood production while her life is threatened. It isn’t funny to play out acts of Xenophobia.

This show was supposed to be about America. Why then does any non white person have a thick accent that is usually unintelligible? Racism. Bigotry. Crap.

Not only is this show anti female, it is anti human. I will never watch another Tracey Ullman special. I can’t stand the stench of her tastelessness.

I am sure somewhere online you can find justifications for how she creates her characters to mock bigots. If the effect is more mocking of the minority, you have fail.

I felt this after one episode, I am trying a second.

More black face. More racial cliches. Showing a woman of color as toothless, uneducated, and irresponsible is NOT Funny. Mocking the Veterans of the Iraq war? Wrong. We need to support our soldiers even if we do not support the War itself. These individuals signed up with the intent to protect us.

Making fun of erectile dysfunction I can let pass, but wait… for many non elderly men Viagra has been an aid in achieving some of life’s more pleasurable aspects. It can help the disabled male perform, which can be psychologically freeing. Stating that elderly men who use Viagra will use it to sleep with whores is disrespectful to both sex workers and the elderly. Who has the right to judge the partner of another? Not me. Not you. Not Tracey Ullman.

Making fun of Poverty is inappropriate. Saying that a kid is “Shit at Math” is inappropriate. It doesn’t matter if parents say this all the time, a kid will believe it and will stop trying. It is important to encourage children, way to reinforce negatives.

Making fun of hard working individuals, those who have disabilities, making fun of those who are more naive about the world at large. None of this is funny. Doing this two episodes in a row? Mocking religion, not okay. No matter what religion it is. No matter how controversial you want to be, being a bigot is just not funny.

There is plenty of comedy without oppressing people. When the “funniest” stuff you do is antihuman, which this crap is… you are failing. When the non racist bits aren’t funny how do you get called a comedian?

I therefore give the elusive and rare Corkscrew of Justice to Tracey Ullman. You. FAIL.

Beauty

I am tired of the stereotype of beauty. I grew up being told that a girl should like men who look like Brad Pitt. I like women with soft lush curves, big and strong ones too. Many would consider my past conquests masculine, or overly thin, or fat. No one type fits what I like. I too have “strange” preferences for the men I have dated and these too tend towards those with meat on their bones, they have body hair, they are dark skinned, fair skinned, or really just alive.

Most of them, but not all, are tall. With either sex I tend to reach out for the taller people, though tall has changed in meaning since the wheelchair entered my life. I can’t look up at my baby brother without hurting my neck. He sits down for me, and still towers above. He is about seven feet tall. I love height because my family is full of tall people, except my own biological father. I associate height with safety. What does this mean about the other standards of beauty? Are we all programmed to like certain things?

Yes!

A huge part of my persecution in this life has been based on facets of my physical appearance. I have red hair, very pale skin that burns the instant sun touches it, soft full lips, and I have always had curves. My smallest size is a fourteen. I was barely eating to maintain that. My body needs meat on it. I am simply a curvaceous woman. I do have an ample bosom as well, and all of these things have been picked at.

I grew up being told I should be blonde. Blonde meant perfection. I hardly find blondes attractive as a result. I am aware that most of my siblings and my own mother are all blonde, and this factors in too. I think Blue Eyes are the best, though any shade is lovely to me. Blue eyes were mocked, because they are pale. Being a minority as a white person is very rare in any part of the world, the patriarchal structure still dominates and is usually white, even in countries where white is the minority. I have always been told my pale skin makes me wealthy. Whiteness in my state is a status symbol.

In India women who are by nature in the darker end of the spectrum are considered harder to marry off, they have less value based on something as simple as their genetic make up. The lighter you are, the more respect you can gain. This is White Privilege. It has defaced an entire culture, this love of all things white has poisoned us. You see whiteness in media, dominantly with able bodied super muscular WHITE men. You see their blonde perfection everywhere. I think back to the Nazi Propaganda studies group I was a member of in High School, and that is what I see. Reflections of past propaganda, continued, accepted, and fully realized.

Curly hair is considered disheveled. Girls with curly hair wake up at odd hours to iron their hair out. I think it is lovely, and my standard of beauty includes the use of a curling iron to add curls to my hair. This is rare, the era of the Super Perm died out at the end of the Eighties, except for a few hold outs.

I am told I must wear make up to seem presentable. I do, at times like to wear make up but I do it when it feels good. Usually I will also hide some of my facial scars under make up, if I cannot shake my feelings of Paranoia. I do not allow myself to wear make up on days when my self worth is being questioned, or when my confidence would hinge only on sultry red lips.

As I write this I am watching a movie that has what I consider the equivalent of Black Face. Sophia Loren is the Millionairess, Peter Sellers is the Indian Doctor who teaches her how to be more than a spoiled snob. This movie is full of propaganda that is anti woman, anti persons of color. I was enjoying it until I realized the fallacy that a white man is playing an Indian, with hardly any alteration of skin color and a very cliched accent.

I also note that the famed figure of Sophia Lauren seems to be aided via a corset. I might be wrong, but the extremes to her figure seem to need assistance. It doesn’t feel natural to me, though it does fit the “standard of beauty”. Her hair is lightened a bit, and of course she is always shown in posh and polished appeal during this film.

I do not think Brad Pitt is handsome. I think he is mediocre. This is all about looks, not his acting. I will not malign someone for having a career. I will however state that I do not understand the requirement to find him attractive. If you want to know who I find attractive in Hollywood, you will have to dig deep. There are few people that strike me as gorgeous or stunning, especially since we have entered the Anorexia Age of Hollyweird. Health is beautiful. That inner glow of self acceptance can make anyone gorgeous.

Since my blossoming into awareness about privilege I have seen more beauty in the world. This side effect shocked me. I like to compliment people when I find them attractive, and I have had the urge to tell the entire world how beautiful it is. The beauty I see is nothing like what is in the Movies or on Television. I live in a world of diversity. The people I see daily are of mixed race, from other countries, and their voices alone are a rhythmic song.

I am not beautiful by the overly BMI oriented modern sensibilities. I never will be. I’d have to break my bones, cut my body apart, inject myself with dye, and lose my sense of self. (This statement does not mean that those who naturally fit this standard are not beautiful, it is merely a rejection of the expectation to alter myself to be just like them) I reject the need to starve myself to fit a rare body type. I reject the fashion industry’s expectation that “fat” women do not like Fashion. I LOVE clothes shopping, and am discovering that I could easily spend a million dollars on cute shoes. These are cliches about womanhood, and yet you will find I only have four pairs of shoes, two for winter, two for summer. My clothing is all rather sensible, black, and boring.

I am pigeon holed by my lack of thinness. I am trapped by the need for others to stigmatize those who are not identical to them. I am not a Stepford Cripple, I am not anything but a person. I am flesh, I am bone, and I have soul. You are beautiful. My friend who is an immigrant is beautiful. I love listening to her voice, the way that she sings while she speaks entrances me. My friend who is the son of immigrants is beautiful. He cannot see that because his world is full of hatred, hatred of the Other.

I discuss privilege with my friends. It is an unavoidable conversation now. Eventually it is addressed either by discussion of politics, feminism, or simply the venting of frustration. I no longer hide my beliefs, to survive until the next day. I am free to speak them. Most of the time these conversations hold a similar impact, someone learns something. We all do really. My friends are all shapes and sizes. I have friends who are thin, blonde, and blue eyed. I have friends who are extraordinarily fat, but give hugs that are so soft. I have friends of every shape, size, mental capacity, and ability. My friends are all beautiful. You are beautiful.

Stop stigmatizing people for not being clones. Clones are scary, according to the media pundits and science fiction. Every time the word cloning is mentioned on TV it is with the hush of fear. Disability also has that hush of fear. Stop being afraid. Fear stops you from living life. This doesn’t mean you should ignore some fears, such as the fear of hunger or the fear of a snake bite. Stop fearing things that are different. If you do not understand something, educate yourself. Don’t fear it. Don’t shun it.

This includes fine art, not so fine art, but most especially people. Children are people. Women are people. I see often abuse launched at those who are different. I experience it every time I go out. I was reminded however, of the power of kindness and decorum.

I write often about the importance of gentle resistance, passive resistance, and not striking back. I admit I fail this way at times but, every so often I am given the reminder I need, the proof that I am right. I had transferred out of my chair at Sam’s Club, into the van and rolled down the window. Beside me a harried mother of two beautiful children, her disabled mother, and a cart of groceries struggled. I watched in silence, until they were about to leave, calling out to the woman that her mother had forgotten her cane.

Her son looked up as she thanked me, glad to not have to spend another twenty five dollars on a cane, and said, “Mommy, that’s the lady from the Walmart with the kitty!” His mother paused and said, “She was on TV too.” We talked then, and I complimented her for handling the stress. I could see she was frazzled, and I let her kids talk to Sprite while she settled them in. No petting of course, but, I told her how beautiful her family is. Three words. “You have a beautiful family.” Okay, five. I never was good with numbers.

She froze, looked at her kids, and then smiled. “I wish everyone could see that.” The thing I have not mentioned is this. Her children are Triracial. They are of Asian, African, and Caucasian Descent. I wanted to take them home with me, their sweetness gave me a rare pang of desire for Motherhood. It went away before we were out of the parking lot, but not the reminder that everything you do has a lasting impression. Every word, Every laugh, Every shout, every time you teach someone something. There is impact.

What draws me to people is never what they look like. It is instead their personality, the joy they have for life, and sometimes the hope that I can grow up to be like them. I may never grow up. I am always surprised when I realize for a moment I am not a child anymore. It fades, but, that too reminds me to be innocent.

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is not what media tells us it should be. Beauty is merely in the existence of life. Flowers, Puppies, kittens, children, lovers. All beautiful. Be you a Homosexual, Transgendered, A person of non Caucasian ethnicity, red haired, blonde haired, black haired, green haired, or even a strange shade of orange. You are beautiful.

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